Energy Services


An Eskom worker repairs the power lines after the fire in Monwabisi Park.

Residents of informal settlements often struggle to get all of the energy services —electricity, heating and cooking fuels—they need to live.  Developed with little structure or organization, Monwabisi Park has many of the same energy problems common to informal settlements across the globe. Fuel for heating and cooking can be expensive, and electricity is often unreliable and expensive to maintain.  And because scrap materials are regularly used to build shacks, and insulation is too expensive for most residents, heating efficiency is typically poor. This state of affairs directly affects the resident’s safety, health and economic status by making them vulnerable to the cold, fires and expensive energy services.

Traditionally the approach to upgrading in informal settlements has been extremely harsh on the community itself. The community is often displaced on large scales in order for large areas to be redeveloped. This approach requires extensive infrastructure utilities development. This restructuring would be a very drastic change for the people of Monwabisi Park, who have grown accustomed to their current living arrangement. Redevelopment has not occurred in Monwabisi Park due to the extensiveness of the problem and the lack of materials, manpower and capital of the government.

We have established many goals for ourselves in our approach to the problem. We would like to determine alternatives that would benefit the community while keeping in mind their preferences and lifestyle. We would like these alternatives to provide less dangerous and more cost effective energy practices. Lastly, we want to suggest ways these goals could be realized in the future redevelopment of Monwabisi Park.

In order for us to accomplish these goals we had to first document the current conditions of Monwabisi Park. We found that the residents of Monwabisi Park currently use a few primary energy sources to provide the services they need. Burning paraffin fuel for cooking and home heating is common throughout the informal settlements. Paraffin as an energy source has notable disadvantages being that it is more expensive than electricity, it is extremely dangerous and it causes fires which do extensive damage in the congested settlements. Electricity is provided only to those residents who have an official address registered with the government.  Although this electricity used for cooking and heating is fairly inexpensive, it is often unreliable.   We found some interesting statistics of the study area one of which being 61% of residents rely on illegal and unreliable electrical connections. Another important statistic is the fact that 40% of residents use paraffin for heating, even though it is clearly dangerous. We also found that it is extremely rare for residents to conserve their electricity and thusly they seem to be spending more money than necessary on the service.

In what follows we propose a possible solution to the energy problems of Monwabisi Park. We first document the current energy practices and associated costs in the community to better understand the current challenges to upgrading.  We then consider energy conservation possibilities, an energy education initiative, and, more broadly, an alternative energy plan for Monwabisi Park.

Meet the Team Page

For More Information:

2008 Energy Services Chapter of Envisioning Endlovini [4.4 MB PDF]

2008 Energy Services Executive Summary